Wednesday, July 25
Merikeskus Vellamo, Kotka, 13:10
We woke up suddenly – just like that – at 9:00, and leapt out of bed. We prepared a quick breakfast, which we ate outside, and then jumped into the car and drove towards Kotka. We did the same as we did lat year: we got to a t-junction where we couldn’t decide whether to turn left or right. Irma did what she did last year: she phoned Camilla and described what she could see.
We turned left, then right and, just as Camilla promised, we came to the main highway to Kotka. Last year we turned off at Lovissa, but this year we will go another 80 kilometres. The road goes all the way to St Petersburg, but we will turn off at Kotka, which neither of us have ever visited before.
We parked – just like that – because parking cost nothing and the town seemed to have more parking spaces than cars to park. We walked to Vellamo which contains the Finnish Maritime Meseum, a museum displaying various aspects of the history of Kotka (they have their own traditional hats!), and a large gallery space.
We have come to see a large, well-reviewed, installation by Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway called Sex and the Sea, which looks, in various different ways, at the sexual fantasies and longings of seamen throughout history. This digresses into histories of mermaids, the treatment of venereal diseases, and Staffordshire Dog pottery, which always came in pairs.
The installation contains two videos, one at each end of the long dark room, with seating for two at each end. The videos overlap in that you could see one as the ambient remix of the other. At one end, on three screens, seamen, and two women, talk about aspects of their sexual life at sea, while other images overlap and swirl behind them. At the other end, without the images of the seamen, and without their voices, the evocative images roll together into an endless collage with music. I photograph various moments of this.
After three or so hours in Vellamo we will walk down the road and look at two venues showing Kotka Art, which fills numbers of venues in the town. We will then drive around the centre of Kotka, which takes ten minutes, and head back.
About twenty minutes from Kotka we will stop at Kafe Finlandia, about which you can find out more at xmeal.fi. We will marvel at the size of the empty building and the tallness of the roof, and the odd batch of souvenirs on display. I will notice that they have no vegetarian options at all, and order a juustomaxeri burger. Irma will order a pie and buy some locally made jams and juices.
When we arrive back at Tirmo we will just miss the ferry but still arrive at the midweek market by 18:00. I will notice that Benita’s cafe has filled to overflowing and decide that she must have had one of her best ever summers. The heat has brought people out in record amounts, and the beer will flow while sandwiches and meals get eaten.
In the evening Irma will get a short sharp series of bad news – just like that – and the perfectly amusing day will darken before our very eyes. The evening of chatter and recollection we had expected will turn into something else entirely.